As a toddler watching Thomas the Tank Engine, I was blissfully unaware of the intrusions of twentieth century history into this apparently blissful world. However, intrude it did. In the first two books, Sir Topham Hatt was known as ‘the Fat Director.’ The books author the Rev W.V Awdry rechristened him ‘the Fat Controller’ following the nationalisation of the railways in 1948.
Nor was this Sir Hatt’s only link with politics. Awdry made it part of his fictional biography that the Fat Controller had married into the family of the Liberal MP for Sodor East.
It is worth noting that the series reflection of the politics of its era is far from universally welcome. Slate author Jessica Roake finds it all rather suspect:
[T]he conservatism of Thomas and Friends is not the conservatism of America. Key to the “pick yourself up by your bootstraps” mythos in the United States is the notion that anyone can rise to the top with hard work and initiative. The Thomas series glories instead in true “white man’s burden” style British imperialism. Our hero, Thomas, and his friends jockey for positions just below that of the bullying aristocrat Sir Topham Hatt but never seek to rise to his level. The stern, dour little Englishman in top hat and tails dangles meaningless honors like getting to “carry the most special special” to divide and conquer the trains.